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SUISA Talks at the Zeiträume Festival Basel 2021

Enjoy ten days of contemporary music and experience how the works, often composed especially for the festival, play with their surroundings, ensnare them or engage with them in a kind of dispute. That is the quintessence of the biennial Zeiträume Festival Basel. Text by Erika Weibel

SUISA Talks at the Zeiträume Festival Basel 2021

Zeiträume Basel Festival pavilion in 2019. (Photo: Anna Katharina Scheidegger)

The fourth instalment of the biennial event for new music and architecture carries the festival title “Die Verwandlung” (‘the transformation’) and offers an extraordinary programme between 9 and 19 September 2021 with more than 20 productions and 20+ premières at more than 30 venues in Basel. Current focal points of urban development are made accessible and exciting new productions by many artists are played there.

Apart from numerous concerts and sound installations, you can also dive into the working environment of the composers during the festival. As such, many SUISA talks take place in the festival pavilion.

SUISA Talks, in the festival pavilion and at the Mittlere Brücke (‘Middle Bridge’)
Greifengasse 1, 4058 Basel
Admission free.

Saturday 4 September 2021
at 11:15, Eleni Ralli & Alexander Grebtschenko – Dialogues & Chimeras
at 13:15, Wanja Aloé – Vor Ort
at 15:15, Marianne Schuppe – Die Summe
at 17:15, Linus Riegger, Clemens Fiechter – Phase 4

Sunday 5 September 2021
at 11:15, Sibylle Hauert (tbc) – H.E.I. Kaserne
at 13:15, Dakota Wayne – Sonic Spaces im Klybeck
15:15 – 16:00, Ah Young Hong (soprano) & Vera Hiltbrunner (soprano) – Poppaea
at 17:15, Jannik Giger – Blind Audition

Tuesday 7 September 2021
at 17:15, Phoebe Bognar & Maria Muñoz – Sonic Spaces im Klybeck

Friday 10 September 2021
at 13:15, Dimitri de Perrot (tbc) – Niemandsland
at 17:15, Paul Brauner – Sonic Spaces im Klybeck

Saturday 11 September 2021
at 11:15, Hansjürgen Wäldele – Son et Lumière: Snurglond
at 13:15, Michael Hersch (composition) & Stephanie Fleischmann (libretto) – Poppaea
at 15:15, Klaus Lang – pflaumenblüten.
at 17:15, Helena Winkelmann – pflaumenblüten.

Sunday 12 September 2021
at 11:15, Eleni Ralli & Alexander Grebtschenko – Dialogues & Chimeras
at 13:15, tbc
at 15:15, Sebastian Mathias, Mila Pavicevic, Meret Kündig – Urban Creatures
at 17:15, Focus topic: IGNM Basel, with Marianne Schuppe & Xenia Fünfschilling

Friday 17 September 2021
at 11:15, Alfred Zimmerlin & Robert Torche – Grenzbahnhof
at 13:15, Michel Roth – Spiel Hölle
at 18:15, Yaron Deutsch (Ensemble Nikel) – Oratorium

Saturday 18 Septemer 2021
at 11:15, Focus topic: Zeitgenössische Musik Szene in Basel
at 13:15, Katharina Rosenberger – Urban Morphologies
at 15:15, Focus topic: Nachhaltiges Bauen

Throw a glance behind the scenes in an open conversation with composers, architects, artists and contributors of the festival.

The pavilion at the Mittlere Brücke is the centrepiece of the festival. This is where you can immerse yourself in the sounds, spaces and themes of the festival in talks, performances, installations as well as at the cocktail bar and meet the artists behind the festival productions in person.

The pavilion (Buol & Zünd), sustainably created with the support of SUISA and planned for multi-year use, will be staged again in a new, transformed form. In the middle of the city, the festival presents itself in an open, accessible and playful way – with numerous musical actions, a sounding cable car, kinetic sound objects and changing cocktails from 3 to 19 September.

Join us and be enchanted by a Basel reinterpreted for you.

www.zeitraeumebasel.com

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Enjoy ten days of contemporary music and experience how the works, often composed especially for the festival, play with their surroundings, ensnare them or engage with them in a kind of dispute. That is the quintessence of the biennial Zeiträume Festival Basel. Text by Erika Weibel

SUISA Talks at the Zeiträume Festival Basel 2021

Zeiträume Basel Festival pavilion in 2019. (Photo: Anna Katharina Scheidegger)

The fourth instalment of the biennial event for new music and architecture carries the festival title “Die Verwandlung” (‘the transformation’) and offers an extraordinary programme between 9 and 19 September 2021 with more than 20 productions and 20+ premières at more than 30 venues in Basel. Current focal points of urban development are made accessible and exciting new productions by many artists are played there.

Apart from numerous concerts and sound installations, you can also dive into the...read more

“As a composer, you’re always a beginner” | plus video

In his composition for the project “Swiss Beethoven reflections”, Christian Henking uses the melody of the Swiss song used by Beethoven as a basis. In his six variations, he utilises different principles. Text by guest author Markus Ganz; Video by Manu Leuenberger

Christian Henking respects Ludwig van Beethoven, “this monument, this granite rock in music history”. “He is a master teacher to me again and again, independent of the aesthetics; fantastic what he has formally achieved.” As a consequence, Beethoven’s “Variationen über ein Schweizerlied” (Variations on a Swiss song) irritated him even more, as he explains in a conversation at the end of January 2020. “I really don’t understand them, thought, it wasn’t possible that they were by Beethoven.”

Since the composer from Biel and Berne could not relate to these variations, he dealt with the original song, “Es hätt e Bur es Töchterli” (A farmer had a daughter once) in more detail. But that was also rather awkward, he thought the melody was strange for a folk song, and he was also missing the elegance of the “Guggisberglied” (Guggisberg song). “At the same time, though, it holds the incredible tension of the huge tonal range. Its straightforward, pulse-like nature is also rather interesting; there isn’t really a rhythm, just those quarter notes that ‘hang about’. The song therefore has a certain emptiness and thus also offers openness.” Christian Henking thus decided to base his composition on the melody of the folk song. Then he also wrote six variations, “just like Beethoven, but rather accidentally”.

Christian Henking explains that he first analysed the melody and then cut it into individual segments. “In my first four variations I regard individual segments of the song, so to speak. The last two relate to the entire song.” He therefore stayed altogether or not altogether with the material: “In the second variation, I avoid, especially when searching for this variation, all notes that occur in the original piece.”

The basic approach was to apply different work modes, respectively different principles for each variation. The concept crystallised while composing and developed further. “I knew that I wanted to compose miniatures, short variation movements. I first wrote the 5th variation. Then I realised that I did not want to begin in such a machine-like manner, and therefore did something rather unrestricted as a contrast. One consequently affected the other. And from such relativities, many interrelations arose.”

Christian Henking very often works at the desk, and composes in his head. In order to stimulate his imagination, he often plays piano or cello. “While improvising, I often get ideas, very simple. That is my old-fashioned vein; I am really rather far away from the computer when I compose, I actually write the notes by hand onto the score sheet.” This also includes that he plays all instruments of his scores himself one time. “I like to have the instrument in my fingers. Not in order to hear its sound – I am a pianist, not a string player – but to play the fingerings, sounds and bow positions myself. Strangely, it helps me compose when I apply the haptics in this context even if it was not necessary; it provides me with a kind of grounding.”

Christian Henking selected the combination of strings trio with flute on the one hand because he wanted a small instrumentation so that no conductor was needed. He does, on the other hand, mainly find this instrumentation fascinating. “I have a close relationship with string trios per se. And then the flute joins in, as a kind of outsider, and melts with the sound of the trio.”

You must not expect a “typical Henking composition”. He rather sees “the task of a composer to look at each piece as if it was new, since as a composer, you are always a beginner”. Christian Henking has even started from scratch for each of his variations within the piece and consciously worked with different approaches and techniques: “This is what makes up the art of composing”. To start from scratch also signified to have a heap of possibilities ahead of oneself. Facing so many freedoms, one would have to reflect. He then also sees the risk to select and use a means or a method too quickly because it has worked in one place and has already been tried and tested before. “Routine is a risk and I fight against this with each note.”

During the conversation at the end of January 2020, the composition process had already been mostly concluded. “Everything is here now”, explains Christian Henking and points to numerous score sheets. “I will rethink everything again so that it is possible I apply corrections and other alterations.” Then, however, the composition will be finished into the last detail. Compared to other works, Christian Henking does not grant the performers any freedoms here.

Christian Henking was born in Basel in 1961. He studied music theory at the Conservatory Berne under Theo Hirsbrunner; Ewald Körner trained him to be a chapel master. After that, he studied composition with Cristobal Halffter and Edison Denisov, in master courses with Wolfgang Rihm and Heinz Holliger. He received various awards, among them the Culture Award of the Bürgi-Willert-Stiftung (2000), Acknowledgment Award of the Canton Berne (2002) and the Music Award of the Canton Berne (2016). He is a lecturer at the University of the Arts, Bern, for composition, theoretical subjects and chamber music. www.christianhenking.ch
Swiss Beethoven reflections: A project by Murten Classics and SUISA on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven had not much to do with Switzerland. He did, however, write “Six variations on a Swiss song” (Sechs Variationen über ein Schweizerlied), namely the folk song “Es hätt e Bur es Töchterli” (A farmer had a daughter once). This is the starting point for the composition assignments which the summer festival Murten Classics and SUISA allocated to eight Swiss composers of different generations, aesthetics and origin.

Oscar Bianchi, Xavier Dayer, Fortunat Frölich, Aglaja Graf, Christian Henking, Alfred Schweizer, Marina Sobyanina and Katharina Weber had a choice of basing their work on the variations, the folk song used by Beethoven or Beethoven in general. The compositions were written for the ensemble Paul Klee which allows for the following maximum instrumentation: Flute (also piccolo, G- or bass flute), clarinet (in B or A), violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano.

The initiator of this project, launched in 2019, is Kaspar Zehnder who has been Artistic Director of Murten Classics for 22 years. Due to the corona crisis and the measures ordered by the authorities, it was not possible to hold the 32nd instalment of the festival in August 2020 or the scheduled replacement festival in the winter months that followed. The “SUISA day” with eight compositions of this project was performed and recorded nevertheless, without an audience, on 28 January 2021 in the KiB Murten. The recordings are available for listening at radio SRF 2 Kultur in the programme “Neue Musik im Konzert” (5 May 2021, 9pm) and will be released on the platform Neo.mx3. The project will also be documented online via the SUISAblog and the social media channels of SUISA.

www.murtenclassics.ch

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In his composition for the project “Swiss Beethoven reflections”, Christian Henking uses the melody of the Swiss song used by Beethoven as a basis. In his six variations, he utilises different principles. Text by guest author Markus Ganz; Video by Manu Leuenberger

Christian Henking respects Ludwig van Beethoven, “this monument, this granite rock in music history”. “He is a master teacher to me again and again, independent of the aesthetics; fantastic what he has formally achieved.” As a consequence, Beethoven’s “Variationen über ein Schweizerlied” (Variations on a Swiss song) irritated him even more, as he explains in a conversation at the end of January 2020. “I really don’t understand them, thought, it wasn’t possible that they were by Beethoven.”

Since the composer from Biel and Berne could not relate to these variations, he...read more

Archipel Festival – a well-established works smithy | plus video

The Archipel Festival is going to give a large audience access to a plethora of new works between 16 and 25 April 2021 from its location in Geneva. The audience will be able to delve into the festival from the comfort of their homes and to log on in order to follow about 70 events which take place each afternoon. Text by Erika Weibel; Video by Nina Müller

The entire festival programme is going to be broadcast via streaming and will be made available via the Archipel website, free of charge. It is also possible to meet artists online, to participate in discussions, answer questions in quizzes, get an impression of the weather and throw a glance into the premises of the event venue.

Archipel provides a festival “under supervision” with a Web TV team which is going to broadcast live for ten days, from noon to midnight. A unique, experimental and artistic project which allows the audience to take part actively on air.

Baptism of fire for new composers

This year, the Archipel Festival has provided composers again with the opportunity to create new works and thus give the audience the pleasure of enjoying these new compositions. Salômé Guillemin-Poeuf, a young composer from Geneva, has, for example, created the work “50 Hertz”, whose première will take place on 21 April 2021 at 7.00pm.

Salômé Guillemin-Poeuf is a designer and musician who lives and works in Geneva. She creates interactive sound installations, performances and musical instruments. Her works have already been performed to be audio- & audiovisually on numerous international stages. The creative and versatile artist recently registered as an associate member of SUISA.

Collaboration with Archipel

SUISA is a sponsor of the festival again. It is great news that the Archipel organisers have found a creative means to adapt to the circumstances and to carry out the festival under strict stipulations in a new format – and thus enable many new works to be performed.

As a sponsor, we would like to point out two of the 70 events in particular:

Première of the work “50 Hertz” by Salômé Guillemin-Poeuf
on 21 April 2021 at 7.00pm

SUISA round table talk on being a composer in Switzerland
on 24 April 2021 at 2.00pm

Broadcast from the Maison communale de Plainpalais via: www.archipel.org
between 16 and 25 April, from noon to midnight each day

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Label Suisse and SUISA make Swiss music possible | plus videoLabel Suisse and SUISA make Swiss music possible | plus video The ninth edition of the Label Suisse Festival will take place in Lausanne from 18 to 20 September 2020. Programming of this biennial festival is dedicated to the Swiss music scene with all its diversity. Special highlight: Artists from all genres have composed works especially for the Label Suisse. These works will be performed live at the festival for the first time. SUISA is once again involved as one of the main partners of the festival. Read more
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The Archipel Festival is going to give a large audience access to a plethora of new works between 16 and 25 April 2021 from its location in Geneva. The audience will be able to delve into the festival from the comfort of their homes and to log on in order to follow about 70 events which take place each afternoon. Text by Erika Weibel; Video by Nina Müller

The entire festival programme is going to be broadcast via streaming and will be made available via the Archipel website, free of charge. It is also possible to meet artists online, to participate in discussions, answer questions in quizzes, get an impression of the weather and throw a glance into the premises of the event venue.

Archipel provides a festival “under supervision” with a Web...read more

Label Suisse and SUISA make Swiss music possible | plus video

The ninth edition of the Label Suisse Festival will take place in Lausanne from 18 to 20 September 2020. Programming of this biennial festival is dedicated to the Swiss music scene with all its diversity. Special highlight: Artists from all genres have composed works especially for the Label Suisse. These works will be performed live at the festival for the first time. SUISA is once again involved as one of the main partners of the festival. Text by Erika Weibel

Label Suisse is unique to Switzerland: Every two years, the festival in Lausanne offers the public an insight into Swiss music creation – across geographical and genre boundaries – and thus highlights the current horizons of Swiss musicians of contemporary music from pop, rock, jazz, classical and new folk music in its most diverse forms of expression. More than 60 established as well as emerging artists will be performing as part of the varied programme in various locations in Lausanne over three days.

Exciting composition projects complete the diverse concert programme. Composers from various musical genres have created works for the festival that will be premiered there.

The festival is not only aimed at a music-loving audience but is also a get-together for the Swiss and foreign music and event scene. SUISA, as a cooperative society of composers, lyricists and publishers of music, is once again one of the main partners of the festival, making music in Switzerland possible together with the Label Suisse.

Composition projects

The following compositions were created especially for the 2020 Label Suisse:

Jazz
Nik Bärtsch, composition and piano.
Project in partnership with the Zurich University of the Arts and the Jazzcampus Basel with the participation of young musicians.
Performance: Saturday, 19 September 2020, Salle Paderewski
Further concerts in the twin cities at the Klangbasel Festival (Basel) and at Moods (Zurich)

Classical music
Antoine Chessex, commissioned composition for great organ, chest organ and Hammond
Artists: Simone Keller and Dominik Blum
Project of 35 minutes duration, entitled “Technosphère & Fragmentation”.
Performance: Sunday, 20 September 2020, Eglise St Francois

Isabel Mundry, composition
Collegium Novum Zurich (CNZ) ; Brian Archinal, percussion solo
Title of the work: Noli me tangere (2020)
Performance: Saturday, 19 September 2020, Salle Paderewski

Cod.act – André et Michel Décosterd
“Von Roll Twist 4” – Installation for 6 speakers and one performer (Francesco Biamonte)
André et Michel Décosterd combine their skills, the first being a musician, composer and sound artist and the second an architect and visual artist. Together they develop an artistic work in the form of performances and interactive installations. Their approach starts with a reflection on sound and movement and their possible interaction.
Performance: Saturday,19 September 2020, D! Club

New traditional music
Michel Godard
Works composed especially for the occasion by Michel Godard, conducted by Pascal Emonet. Played by fanfare players of the Valais Brass Band and Jazz Conservatory in a little-known sound approach: the Italian Banda. This orchestra is accompanied by Michel Godard, Pierre Favre, Isa Wiss and Matthieu Michel.

Come along and experience how the sounds of completely new works are brought to an audience for the very first time.

www.labelsuisse.ch

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All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

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The ninth edition of the Label Suisse Festival will take place in Lausanne from 18 to 20 September 2020. Programming of this biennial festival is dedicated to the Swiss music scene with all its diversity. Special highlight: Artists from all genres have composed works especially for the Label Suisse. These works will be performed live at the festival for the first time. SUISA is once again involved as one of the main partners of the festival. Text by Erika Weibel

Label Suisse is unique to Switzerland: Every two years, the festival in Lausanne offers the public an insight into Swiss music creation – across geographical and genre boundaries – and thus highlights the current horizons of Swiss musicians of contemporary music from pop, rock, jazz, classical and new folk music in its...read more

Finding her own universe

Cécile Marti is one of the most outstanding protagonists of contemporary music in Switzerland. In her work, the composer and sculptor tries to combine different forms of expression to make an impressive separate entity. In the near future, hopefully ballet will also be added to the dialogue between sound and sculpture. FONDATION SUISA is supporting the artistic vision of this Zurich resident with a Carte Blanche grant of 80,000 Swiss francs. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Cécile Marti: Finding her own universe

Carte Blanche for Cécile Marti. (Photo: Suzie Maeder)

Under normal circumstances, it is true to say that people should separate the work of art from its creator. In Cécile Marti’s case, this is hardly possible, because one single day in her life not only compelled her to bury her great dream, but ultimately, after a long period of heartache, took her down the path leading to artistic success today.

The uncompromisingness with which the now 45-year old from Zurich follows her artistic vision, was also quite distinct as a young girl: “From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a violinist. A violinist and nothing else.” She started playing the violin at eight years of age, closely followed by the piano. One thing became clear when she heard violinist Bettina Boller at a concert: “I wanted to have lessons from her.” Faith can move mountains, so the young Cécile became the only one receiving private tuition.“This period was like some kind of musical earthquake for me”, raves Marti. “Bettina Boller brought me closer to new music. When I was 12, I heard Alfred Schnittke, after which it definitely became clear to me: I had to go to the conservatory and the violin would become my sole focus in life.”

It’s all over

Marti lowers her eyes for a few seconds, before carrying on with her story: “At 17, I started teaching myself and at 18, the conservatory and orchestral projects from Mahler to Bruckner followed. It was splendid. Then I hit 20 and disaster struck!” Marti suffered a stroke and became paralysed down one side of her body. Overnight: it was all over. “I refused to accept it and tried every conceivable therapy over a period of three years. I fought it until I had run out of strength.”

Marti banished the violin to the loft and would not listen to music for five years. “The wound was far too great.” During this period, as she puts it herself, she felt like she was “lost in the desert”. Until one particular moment when her subconscious started talking to her. “I suddenly heard music inside me. And I then began to write it out. That was the start of my career as a composer.”

She began her studies in composition with Dieter Ammann and for the first time encountered the concept of responses to the passage of time. Meeting the Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas during her studies suddenly opened up a new dimension to her when it came to developing her own work. In contrast to Amman, Haas practised a method for dealing with the passage of time that was previously unknown to Marti. “It allows an undetermined amount of time for an idea, until the point at which it is fully exhausted. And then this idea slowly attaches itself to another one. This slow way of handling things fascinated me. And from it come a completely different way of hearing things and sense of time.”

Sculptural hearing

With hindsight, it is certainly no accident that Marti felt herself captivated by the possibilities offered by the most varied of responses to the passage of time. And it is most likely not by chance that she started her work as a sculptor at the same time that she started composing music. The period of her life precipitously interrupted by the stroke, which ultimately led to something new, and the natural stone, which was transformed into a perfect sculpture thanks to lots of strength, perseverance and willpower, undeniably link the dialectics between biography and artistic debate.

It also explains the path taken by Marti, which is quite different to the notion of a traditional career. “Under normal circumstances, you are commissioned by someone to compose a piece. I predominantly followed by own ideas”, she declares affirmatively. Right from the beginning, her doctorate supervisor in London expressed concern about her composition plans (Marti obtained her PhD with a thesis on musical responses to the passage of time). “He said: ‘What you have written is like a shot in the dark’”, she explains smiling.“‘You’ll probably not find an orchestra willing to play it.’” He was referring to the orchestral cycle “Seven Towers” in 7 parts, for 120 musicians and lasting 80 minutes which SOBS (the Symphony Orchestra of Biel & Solothurn) premièred in 2016 in Biel/Bienne and since its genesis has also been played by the Bern Symphony Orchestra, Geneva Camerata and the Basel Sinfonietta.

In this breathtaking (in its truest sense) work, the orchestra as a whole reminds you of a sculpture which can be experienced in many different ways. “People say to me that when they listen to my music, they feel sculptural and in fact I think it is very gestural and formative. I am fond of the idea that people can view things from the most varied perspectives and that there actually exists an interaction between my sculpture work and my compositions.”

“The greatest gift”

Cécile Marti wants to expand this interaction with a new project, namely a ballet. The idea came to her three years ago when she saw the choreography of the Canadian, Crystal Pite, in a London theatre. “It was like a lightning strike for me”, enthuses Marti. “Up to that point in time, I had never seen a dance performance where I immediately had the feeling that I wanted to cooperate with this choreographer.” According to Marti, Pite does with dance exactly what she does with music. “She also works in a sculptural manner and with the aid of large groups. She then forms this mass in all conceivable directions.”

The fact that Pite was keen on the project, but as the shooting star of the dance scene is fully booked up until 2026, has not put Marti off following up the idea. During her music-free period, she filled dozens of diaries, which are not only the legacy of a gloomy time, but which also describe the start of a new life. This writing should form the basis for a dramatic autobiographical ballet, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

Whether or not, in the case of the ballet, the first part of which had been premièred in concert in Warsaw in September 2019, or the second string quartet, which premièred in the same month and the title of which was “Sculpted in stone”, already point to the presence of 26 stone sculptures, the manifestation of the passage of time stands centre stage of Marti’s work, which is both creative and exploratory. Consequently, she is continuing working on the “Seven Towers” concept to make this also physically experienceable in sculptural form in future.

The Carte Blanche award from FONDATION SUISA will now make it possible for her to further develop this objective without any pressure. “Quite simply, Carte Blanche funding is the best gift you can ever imagine”, she enthuses. “I pursue ideas with my heart, even though they might actually look unpopular on paper. However, my work has to be precise in terms of content and as authentic as possible. And as a result, time pressure is of no consequence where I am concerned.”

The great misfortune, which struck Marti at just 20 years of age, must have felt like a black hole into which all matter disappeared. Far more impressive is the “big bang” which took place after years of darkness, and out of which she created a completely new, unique universe which had not by a long shot been researched in every nook and cranny.

www.cecilemarti.ch

FONDATION SUISA started awarding new grants in 2018. “Carte Blanche” funding of 80,000 Swiss francs, which is not announced, but awarded once every two years directly by a panel of experts, is aimed at enabling music makers to concentrate on their further artistic development without any financial pressure.

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Cécile Marti is one of the most outstanding protagonists of contemporary music in Switzerland. In her work, the composer and sculptor tries to combine different forms of expression to make an impressive separate entity. In the near future, hopefully ballet will also be added to the dialogue between sound and sculpture. FONDATION SUISA is supporting the artistic vision of this Zurich resident with a Carte Blanche grant of 80,000 Swiss francs. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Cécile Marti: Finding her own universe

Carte Blanche for Cécile Marti. (Photo: Suzie Maeder)

Under normal circumstances, it is true to say that people should separate the work of art from its creator. In Cécile Marti’s case, this is hardly possible, because one single day in her life not only compelled her to bury her great dream, but ultimately, after a long...read more

Where there is no love, everything is in vain

Zurich composer and music journalist Rolf Urs Ringger passed away on 26 June 2019 aged 84. Obituary by guest author Thomas Meyer

Rolf Urs Ringger: Where there is no love, everything is in vain

Rolf Urs Ringger had been a SUISA member since 1960. (Photo: Keystone / Gaëtan Bally)

When he was young, he is said to have wanted to write a novel with the title “The Dandy”: The protagonist takes a taxi to the opera. The book was supposed to be about this short yet extended trip – and with that, probably a little bit about himself. Never mind, whether this was invented or whether the inheritance really might include a fragment of the novel: Rolf Urs Ringger knew, of course, what kind of bait he threw to journalists with such an anecdote. Full of mischief, he envisaged how the image of Ringger, the dandy, emerged, and was happy because that is who he was: the dandy among Swiss composers, genuinely vain, but also sensually playful with this vanity. When Adrian Marthaler visualised his orchestral work “Breaks and Takes” for TV, Ringger himself played a Delius-like, melancholic composer by a swimming pool.

“I love flirting. It does, after all, provide my production with a light and playful moment. And it is really well received by the audience. And I enjoy it.” That’s what he said in a conversation. “The moment of narcissism, now understood without bias, is prominently perceptible with me.” I liked him for this kind of self-irony which was rather natural in his case. He brought his very own and outstanding colour into the Zurich music scene which tended to be modest. He was glamorous, eclectic, urban, even though he always spent his summers on Capri where he created a few sensual sound patterns. The composer was heavily involved in creating this image.

Sound and word artist

Ringger was also a native of Zurich. Born in Zurich on 06 April 1935, he grew up here, lived and worked here, a word and sound artist. He attended the seminar in Küsnacht, he completed a thesis on Weberns piano pieces at the musicologists’ seminar Zurich with Kurt von Fischer. As rur. (his initials used for writing as a journalist for the NZZ), he belonged to the critics’ staff of the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”, delivered trenchant and elegant, sometimes deliberately careless texts, but also wrote early portraits on those composers who only got attention to a great extent such as Edgard Varèse or Charles Ives, Erik Satie and Othmar Schoeck. Apart from great characters, there are also mavericks, and he happily remembered the nostalgics among whom he probably counted himself. In publications such as the essay collection “Von Debussy bis Henze”, he bundled these portraits.

Ringger had lessons in composition very early on, privately with Hermann Haller. At Darmstadt summer schools in 1956, he studied under Theodor W. Adorno and Ernst Krenek, shortly after for half a year with Hans Werner Henze in Rome. Those were aesthetic antipodes since Henze had already withdrawn from the avant-garde scene by then. Even though Ringger later on mentioned with a smug expectant smile that he got on better with Adorno than with Henze, he still followed his abandon of the strictly serial techniques to an orientation towards a sensual sound language. This can already be heard from the sound of his titles: “… Vagheggi il mar e l’arenoso lido…” for orchestra (1978), “Souvenirs de Capri” for soprano, bugle and string sextet (1976–77), “Ode ans Südlicht” for choir and orchestra (1981) or “Addio!” for strings and tubular bells. He also created three ballet music works, namely “Der Narziss” (1980), “Ikarus” (1991), and “Ippòlito” (1995). What he obviously never tried was to approach the great dramatico-musical forms.

Sensual sound language

Ringger was one of the first who used neo-tonal elements in the 70ies, as a Henze follower, trending rather early. I dedicated a caustic comment to this in a review back then. Of course, despite all of his self-irony, he reacted relatively offended. And yet, a few years later, he reverted to the issue with pleasure and proudly announced that I had called him the first neo-tonal in this country back then. The change towards postmodernism had proved him right.

Thus, his music often played with quotes (from Debussy, for example), indulged in impressionistic colours or in highly romantic gestures, but still remained transparent and light all the while. I did, however, treasure him most as an urban flâneur. Not where he put newspaper clippings together in a childish manner to create a collage (“Chari-Vari-Etudes”, “Vermischtes”) for chamber speaking choir but in his musical promenades. In the “Manhattan Song Book” (2002) for soprano, three speaking voices and five instruments, he is out and about in New York, observes, takes notes, comments in eleven songs, cheeky, carefree, again in a coquettish self-mirroring. When a lady, called as a not so friendly “crazy witch”, asks him whether he was the “famous composer”, he only answers briefly: “No, it’s my cousin.”

Now he passed away. “Lights!” is written at the top of his obituary, below the sentences: “He loved the sun of the Mediterranean, music and youth. He thanks all of those who have done well unto him in his life and supported his music.” Capri is going to miss him. His “Notiziario caprese” (2004) ends with the words “(very calm, nearly without pathos) Se non c’è Amore, tutto è sprecato. (very matter-of-fact) Where there is no love, everything is in vain. Inscription on a grave in Capri; about 2020.”

The obituary by Thomas Meyer was first published in the “Schweizer Musikzeitung” no. 9/10 of September/October 2019.

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Zurich composer and music journalist Rolf Urs Ringger passed away on 26 June 2019 aged 84. Obituary by guest author Thomas Meyer

Rolf Urs Ringger: Where there is no love, everything is in vain

Rolf Urs Ringger had been a SUISA member since 1960. (Photo: Keystone / Gaëtan Bally)

When he was young, he is said to have wanted to write a novel with the title “The Dandy”: The protagonist takes a taxi to the opera. The book was supposed to be about this short yet extended trip – and with that, probably a little bit about himself. Never mind, whether this was invented or whether the inheritance really might include a fragment of the novel: Rolf Urs Ringger knew, of course, what kind of bait he threw to journalists with such an anecdote. Full of mischief, he envisaged how the image of Ringger, the...read more

Intriguing insights and concerts at the Zeiträume Festival

Would you like to look over composers’ shoulders while they are working? Would you like to ask them what inspires and incites them to open new worlds for us with their works? The biennial ‘Zeiträume Basel’, a cooperation with SUISA, provides you with the opportunity to have a personal chat with authors of the works which are performed during the festival. Text by Erika Weibel

Intriguing insights and concerts at the Zeiträume Festival

Zeiträume Pavilion, meeting point of the festival. It was created by Zeiträume Basel with the support of SUISA and the Basel Canton Bank in co-production with the University for Music FHNW / Music Academy Basel. (Photo: Johanna Köhler)

In cooperation with SUISA, the Festival Zeiträume turns the process of how music is created today into an experience. This is due to the fact that in 2019, a particular focus of the festival’s programme is on the creative development process of compositions. During the SUISA Talks with composers whose works sound throughout the festival, visitors to the event can enter into their world, and get an impression of their motivation, their inspiration and their various work methods. Visitors can also ask the composers questions in a relaxed atmosphere.

This can make the visit to the ensuing or previously attended concert much more intriguing and thus either build up the anticipation or enhance the musical experience. The discussions are free-of charge for the audience; they are held in various locations at the festival and are professionally run.

SUISA Talks at the Zeiträume Festival 2019

Sun 15 September Katharina Rosenberger, Baldur Brönnimann | Wir sind Meer | Mitteldeck
Mon 16 September Mitglieder FIM Basel | Das grosse Rauschen| Unternehmen Mitte
Mon 16 September Marianne Schuppe | Die Summe | ZeitRäume Pavillon
Wed 18 September Elisabeth Flunger & Gäste | Das grosse Rauschen | Unternehmen Mitte
Wed 18 September Team Rohrwerk. Fabrique sonore | Kunstmuseum
Thu 19 September Team Rohrwerk. Fabrique sonore | Kunstmuseum
Sat 21 September Team Rohrwerk. Fabrique sonore | Kunstmuseum
Sat 21 September Hannes Seidel, Andreas Wenger | Überläufer* | Zollhalle St. Johann
Sat 21 September Kollektiv Mycelium | Cyber String Species | Gare du Nord
Sat 21 September Mike Svoboda | Freude | Antoniuskirche
Sun 20 September Team Ivan Wyschnegradsky: La Coupole | Markthalle Basel

In addition, there will be daily talks at the Pavilion between 4.30pm and 7.00pm. The exact timetable will only be published by the Zeiträume Festival shortly before the event on its website.

Moderators: Bernhard Günther, Dorothea Lübbe, Johannes Joseph, Anja Wernicke

Festival Pavilion

Commissioned by Zeiträume Basel 2019, supported by SUISA, Marco Zünd, architect from Basel, (Buol & Zünd Architects) has designed a welcoming, temporary assembly point in a prominent location at the ‘Mittlere Brücke’ at the Rhine promenade. A folding cube shall act as an information centre, meeting point for various festival activities and venue of artistic interventions. There, the audience can meet composers in action throughout the entire duration of the festival.

Opening times Pavilion
Tue 10 September to Sun 22 September | daily 11am – 7pm | Wohlterasse at the ‘Mittlere Brücke’

Cube Talks with festival artists: every day from 4.30pm to 7.00pm
(except during performances)
Tue 10 September | SUISA Talk with Marco Zünd
Mon 16 September | SUISA Talk with Marianne Schuppe

Performances: Wed 11 Sep, Thu 12 Sep, Tue 17 Sep, Wed 18 Sep | 12.30am to 2.00pm & 5.00pm to 6.30pm respectively

www.zeitraeumebasel.com

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Would you like to look over composers’ shoulders while they are working? Would you like to ask them what inspires and incites them to open new worlds for us with their works? The biennial ‘Zeiträume Basel’, a cooperation with SUISA, provides you with the opportunity to have a personal chat with authors of the works which are performed during the festival. Text by Erika Weibel

Intriguing insights and concerts at the Zeiträume Festival

Zeiträume Pavilion, meeting point of the festival. It was created by Zeiträume Basel with the support of SUISA and the Basel Canton Bank in co-production with the University for Music FHNW / Music Academy Basel. (Photo: Johanna Köhler)

In cooperation with SUISA, the Festival Zeiträume turns the process of how music is created today into an experience. This is due to the fact that in 2019, a particular...read more

Creating music in the era of contamination

A discussion on the deceptively simple theme of ‘contamination in music’ provided much food for thought, reaffirming the desire to talk about music and ideas, to try to understand one another better and more profoundly. Text by guest author Zeno Gabaglio

Jazz in Bess: Creating music in the era of contamination

Round table discussion on the theme of ‘Creating Music in the Era of Contamination’: (from left to right) Zeno Gabaglio, Nadir Vassena, Maurizio Chiaruttini (moderator), Gabriele Pezzoli and Carlo Piccardi. (Photo: Giorgio Tebaldi)

Writing a report on an event you’ve taken part in comes with one major problem: the conflict of interest. This most partial of creatures precludes any reasonable expectation of objectivity, so readers are warned that every aspect of the account from this point will be marked by the utmost subjectivity.

But let’s rewind: on 7 June 2019, a round table discussion on the theme of ‘Creating Music in the Era of Contamination’ took place in the convivial surroundings of Jazz in Bess in Lugano (the closest thing Ticino has to a Jazz club – but this magical venue deserves an article all of its own…). Four diverse exponents of Ticino’s music scene were invited to take part: Nadir Vassena (a composer, teacher and stalwart of the cultural scene for decades, and someone who has enjoyed considerable success across Europe), Gabriele Pezzoli (a jazz composer and pianist who has pursued a distinctly personal and varied creative path), Carlo Piccardi (a musicologist, director of Rete Due for many years, and one of the most devoted connoisseurs and defenders of Ticino’s musical heritage) and the writer Zeno Gabaglio.

It was an eclectic group – like the proverbial box of chocolates – and their mixed backgrounds alone suggested a range of ideas on music. This wealth of opinions emerged rapidly thanks to the moderation – and encouragement – of Maurizio Chiaruttini, a journalist and former producer at RSI.

Search for an own musical identity

‘Contamination seems to have become almost an imperative in every field of artistic expression: contamination between different genres, contamination between languages – cultural and popular, academic and commercial, acoustic and technological – contamination between cultural idioms of disparate origins. In a context such as this, what does it mean to search for your own musical identity, your own style, your own authentic means of expression?’

This was our starting point and, going against every dramatic rule there is, I can tell you right now that there was no arrival point – or at least, there wasn’t just one. Opinions diverged even on the meaning of the term ‘contamination’: some underlined the essentially negative connotations of the word (which, Vassena reminded us, shares the same root as ‘contagion’), while others agreed its distinctness from concepts such as ‘purity’ and ‘identity’. ‘Contaminated’ musicians, of course, cannot be pure; they inevitably lose a small part of their identity to take on something new.

Keeping the focus on terminology, Gabriele Pezzoli suggested a synonym – ‘hybridisation’ – which is less negatively connoted and more open to the variety of stimuli the modern world offers up, and with which Pezzoli identifies.

Masterpieces are often the result of a process

Carlo Piccardi then started off by reminding us that contamination is a broad historical phenomenon that dates back well before the present day. Major historical works – undisputed masterpieces that are universally recognised as uniform creations – were often the result of a process. But the processes required to create a work are hardly ever reported, and even more rarely remembered. It is in precisely these processes that, during the last two thousand years of European music, contamination has played a decisive role.

As mentioned earlier, we didn’t reach any one conclusion, but this discussion on the apparently simple and narrow theme of “contamination in music” led us to secondary themes and observations that – in an era when you might expect the opposite to be true – reaffirmed our desire to talk about music, to discuss ideas as well as sounds, and to try to understand one another better and more profoundly.

www.jazzinbess.ch

Guest author Zeno Gabaglio is a musician/composer and a SUISA Board member.

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All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

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A discussion on the deceptively simple theme of ‘contamination in music’ provided much food for thought, reaffirming the desire to talk about music and ideas, to try to understand one another better and more profoundly. Text by guest author Zeno Gabaglio

Jazz in Bess: Creating music in the era of contamination

Round table discussion on the theme of ‘Creating Music in the Era of Contamination’: (from left to right) Zeno Gabaglio, Nadir Vassena, Maurizio Chiaruttini (moderator), Gabriele Pezzoli and Carlo Piccardi. (Photo: Giorgio Tebaldi)

Writing a report on an event you’ve taken part in comes with one major problem: the conflict of interest. This most partial of creatures precludes any reasonable expectation of objectivity, so readers are warned that every aspect of the account from this point will be marked by the utmost subjectivity.

But let’s rewind: on 7 June 2019, a round table...read more

Travelling with and inside a space

Place, time and space play a pivotal role in the works of composer, Beat Gysin. In his six-part “Lightweight building series”, he designs spaces specially for the music, enabling him to confront his audience with shifting tonal and spatial experiences. The second part of his elaborate project is due to be brought to fruition from 2021. FONDATION SUISA is supporting this project financially with Get Going! funding. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Beat Gysin: Travelling with and inside a space

The Basel composer Beat Gysin in a photo taken in 2010. (Photo: Anna Katharina Scheidegger)

Chemistry and music: do they go together? What initially appears to be a contradiction in terms makes complete sense in Beat Gysin’s biography. Although he grew up in a family of musicians, Gysin took the decision to study chemistry as well as composition and music theory. The scientific approach and empirical evaluation of an experimental approach are just as important to him as the musical element. “I never wanted to be famous because of my music. I always wanted to find answers with my music and within it”, explains the 50-year-old Basel resident.

His catalogue of works is impressive. Even more impressive, however, is the way in which he brings his compositions to the performance stage. Gysin moves systematically beyond duplication and sound recording. Place, time and above all space are obligatory elements in his performance technique. In this respect, Gysin is far more than “just” a composer and musician. If you are to ultimately understand the Gysin Universe, you must firstly apply such definitions as researcher, architect, facilitator and philosopher.

“I am actually a philosopher at heart”, he adds. “It’s a matter of awareness, and I notice that the space in which music is performed has lost importance in its overall perception. Nowadays, people regard the music as being detached from its performance”, he adds and in so doing refers to a key point in his work: the systematic interplay between space and sound. “If you take one of my pieces out of the space, then this is almost as if you were creating a piano solo from an orchestral work. You know the notes, but do not hear the orchestra.”

With remarkable consistency, meticulousness and a passion for experimentation, in his many projects Gysin again and again plumbs the depths of the complex interplay between space, sound and the resulting perception of his music. The performance space becomes part of the artwork, which ultimately not only offers the audience a completely new sensory experience, but Gysin also repeatedly delivers new perceptions, in order to subsequently create yet another new approach to his next project. “I want to find things. And invent”, is how he describes what drives him artistically in an almost laconic manner. In this respect, he does not necessarily take centre-stage as the composer, but often “only” as the conceptual leader. In order to encourage an exchange of ideas, he set up the Basel studio-klangraum recording space and founded the ZeitRäume Basel festival.

“If you take one of my pieces out of the space, then this is almost as if you were creating a piano solo from an orchestral work. You know the notes, but do not hear the orchestra.”

Whether in churches with their varying acoustic properties, in empty waterworks with an echo lasting anything up to 30 seconds or in decommissioned mines where almost perfect silence prevails: Gysin keeps on discovering new spaces that can be mapped acoustically. And anywhere there is no natural space available allowing him to move forward, they are architecturally designed. The six-part “Lightweight building series” is not only one of Gysin’s key works because of the expenditure involved. It also represents the next logical step for him: creating spaces that can be transported. Here we are dealing with six abstract space designs, implemented as pieces of architecture in the form of pavilions, which provide unusual listening situations and therefore facilitate a new kind of awareness of the music. “Chronos” comprised a revolving stage like a carousel and in the case of “Gitter” the musicians were arranged “spherically” around the audience. Where “Haus” is concerned, sound space walks around existing houses were made possible and in “Rohre” (Pipes), which will take place shortly (world premiere in September 2019 in the inner courtyard of the Kunstmuseum Basel (Basel Museum of Art) as part of the ZeitRäume Basel festival), the audience and musicians meet each other in the literal sense of the word, in other words in pipes you can walk inside.

“In the concluding two parts from 2023”, Gysin comments, “I would like to investigate the question of mobile set-ups and their influence on hearing. In the case of one of the projects, the musicians and audience sit on little trolleys that never stop moving. Everything remains on the move and the space is constantly redefined. And as regards the last part, it is a question of a suspended space which implodes again and again like a balloon, but can then be re-inflated.” Such elaborate projects are not easy for an artist to finance. “We are dependent on support right from the initial conception, and that costs money”, he states in full awareness, adding: “the Get Going! grant from FONDATION SUISA is the perfect answer to this challenge. It is a kind of way of financing feasibility studies. Up to now this has not existed in this form.”

In times where culture has to be “eventised”, in that marketing experts pay more attention to form than content, the “Lightweight building series” also symbolises a kind of artistic counter-movement. “The advantage is that I, as the artist, conceive the event as a whole”, says Gysin, also commenting: “As a musician, today you are obliged in a world of sensory overload to deal with the location of the music, because it can no longer be understood if taken out of context.”

www.beatgysin.ch

FONDATION SUISA started awarding new grants in 2018. Under the heading of “Get Going!”, creative and artistic processes that do not fall within established categories are given a financial jump-start. Our Portrait Series profiles recipients of Get Going! funding.

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All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

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Place, time and space play a pivotal role in the works of composer, Beat Gysin. In his six-part “Lightweight building series”, he designs spaces specially for the music, enabling him to confront his audience with shifting tonal and spatial experiences. The second part of his elaborate project is due to be brought to fruition from 2021. FONDATION SUISA is supporting this project financially with Get Going! funding. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Beat Gysin: Travelling with and inside a space

The Basel composer Beat Gysin in a photo taken in 2010. (Photo: Anna Katharina Scheidegger)

Chemistry and music: do they go together? What initially appears to be a contradiction in terms makes complete sense in Beat Gysin’s biography. Although he grew up in a family of musicians, Gysin took the decision to study chemistry as well as composition and music...read more

“Orchestral spaces” or if music becomes spatially tangible when you listen to it

In his work, composer Michael Künstle deals with the interplay between tonal dramatisation and dramatic tones. The 27-year-old Basel resident would now like to take the next step forward in his research by making the sound of an orchestra a spatial experience for the listener. FONDATION SUISA is supporting this project financially with Get Going! funding. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Michael Kuenstle: “Orchestral spaces” or if music becomes spatially tangible when you listen to it

The composer Michael Künstle (left) from Basel at work in the recording studio. (Photo: Oliver Hochstrasser)

Michael Künstle was completely surprised to win the International Film Music Competition in the 2012 Zurich Film Festival when he was just 21. “At that time, I had just begun my studies”, he comments today, adding, “I am only just starting to understand the significance of this prize now. It was a kind of springboard, also because it has always been an award for competence that nobody can take away from you”.

In the competition, Künstle was up against 144 fellow composers from 27 countries who were all set exactly the same task: composing the score for the short animated film “Evermore” by Philip Hofmänner. Anyone watching the film today can imagine what might have impressed the jury back then: Künstle came up with amazingly subtle sounds, which enhanced the story of the film.

“The fantastic thing about film music is that it is the result of a close exchange with others. A film represents an interplay between countless people and it is vital to take all aspects into consideration: camera work, use of colour and setting”, is the way Künstle explains his fascination with the genre. “The biggest challenge in a film is to say something with the music which has not yet been said in words or pictures, but which is essential for telling the story right up to the end.”

Whether it is in Gabriel Baur’s “Glow”, “Sohn meines Vaters” by Jeshua Dreyfus or “Cadavre Exquis” by Viola von Scarpatetti: the list of films for which Künstle is responsible for the soundtrack keeps on getting longer. The enthusiasm with which Künstle expresses his specialist know-how and thirst for knowledge in conversation is contagious. Also if he is talking about the greats in this field: Bernard Hermann’s knowledge of composition, for instance, or the unique capability of John Williams, “whose works clearly sound like orchestral pieces when listened to without the film, even though they suit the film for which they were written perfectly. This is incredibly difficult to accomplish, because symphonic music traditionally allows closer narrative structures than a film”.

“In contemporary music, the space is often just as important as other compositional elements, such as the subject matter or rhythm, but this essential aspect is often lost in the recording.”

Although he differentiates between concert music and film scores in his own work, he admits “that you can never fully give up one if you do the other”. Elements that he developed in collaboration with director Gabriel Baur for the film “Glow” found their way into the piece “Résonance”, performed by Trio Eclipse in 2016. “But in my concert music, it is mainly a question of compositional forms and structural ideas that cannot be expressed in the film.”

The idea for the project, that FONDATION SUISA is now going to jointly finance with a Get Going! grant, ultimately arose from another important aspect of Künstle’s creativity. Künstle follows, as he emphasises, a philosophy of the “real” which is as close as possible to an actual recital, thanks to the most up-to-date recording techniques. In collaboration with his working partner, Daniel Dettwiler, who owns the “Idee und Klang” (Idea and Sound) studio in Basel, and who, for years, has been researching new recording techniques, Künstle would like to create a spatial composition that can be listened to in a way that had not existed before.

“In contemporary music, the space is often just as important as other compositional elements, such as the subject matter or rhythm, but this essential aspect is often lost in the recording”, is the way he explains the starting point. “I want to reach a point where people listening on headphones hear the three-dimensional space occupied by the orchestra during recording, as if they could literally ‘feel’ the music.” For many years, this research and in a specific way also the conquest of these “orchestral spaces”, was just an idea for Künstle, because, as he stresses, “You can only make this happen in a studio with the best possible sound and the best microphones available”.

Thanks to Get Going!, the next step in this audiophile revolution can now become a reality and in no-less than London’s legendary Abbey Road Studios with an 80-piece orchestra. Therefore, Künstle will compose a piece in which the space where the recording takes place will play a central role. “I want to turn the composition process on its head”, is how he underscores the objective of his project. “Just like film music”, he adds. Again here, first and foremost you start with what you hear. Therefore completing the circle.

www.michaelkuenstle.ch

FONDATION SUISA started awarding new grants in 2018. Under the heading of “Get Going!”, creative and artistic processes that do not fall within established categories are given a financial jump-start. Our Portrait Series profiles recipients of Get Going! funding.

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In his work, composer Michael Künstle deals with the interplay between tonal dramatisation and dramatic tones. The 27-year-old Basel resident would now like to take the next step forward in his research by making the sound of an orchestra a spatial experience for the listener. FONDATION SUISA is supporting this project financially with Get Going! funding. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Michael Kuenstle: “Orchestral spaces” or if music becomes spatially tangible when you listen to it

The composer Michael Künstle (left) from Basel at work in the recording studio. (Photo: Oliver Hochstrasser)

Michael Künstle was completely surprised to win the International Film Music Competition in the 2012 Zurich Film Festival when he was just 21. “At that time, I had just begun my studies”, he comments today, adding, “I am only just starting to understand the significance of this prize now. It was a kind of springboard,...read more